Art Beats + Lyrics: A conversation w/Jabari Graham and Dubelyoo

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Lil Wayne sold a million albums in a single week, heartily disproving the notion that hip-hop is dead. Right?

At least, that’s the industry’s rationale.

But if you turn on your typical urban radio station (as I did yesterday) and two out of the three songs played in a set feature the ubiquitous “goblin” (his word, not mine) Lil Wayne, doesn’t that in itself prove that hip-hop is on the decline?

That lack of artistic diversity has provided the perfect backdrop for an event like Jack Daniel’s Art Beats + Lyrics to flourish. The free event/exhibit takes place tonight only from 7 p.m.-midnight at the Foundry at Puritan Mill, 916 Joseph E. Lowery Blvd. To reserve free passes, visit www.jackdaniels.com/ABL.

I crunched it up with co-founders Jabari Graham and Dubelyoo the other night in a warehouse off of Krog St. as they put the finishing touches on some installations in preparation for tonight’s show. We talked about what it took to parlay the original Art Beats + Lyrics into a corporate partnership with Jack Daniels, what happened after that infamous night in 2005 when they painted Atlanta’s High Museum hip-hop, and how they plan to give Special Ed a run for his money in Johannesburg.

Rodney: People still talk in amazement about the second AB+L event held at the High Museum in 2005. It was like you all painted the White House black. What was the High’s response after that?

Jabari: It was a mixed response. Because on the museum’s part, the day of the show they were tripping out of their ass because it was something that they wanted, but they didn’t know how to handle it. They had so much expectation, it was urban, but it was so many people that came out and it was no chaos. So afterward, it opened up because they got a lot of memberships as a result.

Dubelyoo: Did they ever send a thank you letter?

Jabari: They didn’t send shit.